By Judith R. Tackett, firstname.lastname@example.org
January 13, 2005
Nashville City Paper
The Metro Public Health Department has issued a Communicable Disease Alert to physicians in Davidson County after observing an unusual increase in reported cases of Shigella.
Shigella is a bacterial infection that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Symptoms, which last about a week, usually develop one or two days after exposure.
Usually one or two cases of Shigella are reported each month in Nashville, health officials said. However, nine cases were reported in October, 11 additional cases were reported in November, and 21 in December.
The last Shigella outbreak in the area occurred in 1998, when more than 600 cases were reported.
However, Deputy State Epidemiologist Tim Jones with the Tennessee Department of Health said it was not unusual to see an increase in outbreaks, and while Shigella can make children pretty sick especially, there is not cause for panic.
ìShigella tends to go in cycles [of] five or six years,î Jones said. ìWe have very low years followed by a gradual increase in a high year. So for example, in the entire state in 1999 we had over 600 cases, in 2001 we only had 124, and in 2004 we had about 500. So weíre on the upswing.î
Jones said in the last year a majority of cases were in Hamilton and Bradley counties, near Chattanooga.
The recent outbreaks in Nashville are the first indication of a rise in Shigella cases in Middle Tennessee.
The Communicable Disease Alert was issued to ask physicians to test people who show symptoms typical for Shigella.
The Shigella bacteria is usually passed between people from stools or soiled fingers of one person to the mouth of another. Careful and frequent hand washing with soap and warm water for a minimum of 20 seconds can prevent transmission.
It is important for children with Shigella to be kept at home to prevent the infection from spreading.